Visiting the Great Wall of China was at the top of our Beijing must dos and we set off on our day trip to the Great Wall at Mutianyu almost ready to burst with excitement! It goes without saying that we love to travel. It’s our absolute favourite thing to do and, no matter where we are in the world, we’re generally a little bubble of happiness when we’re on the road!
There are some spectacular moments, often when we’re stood in front of an iconic landmark that we’ve wanted to visit forever – and it’s usually accompanied by a teary eye! Our visit to the Great Wall of China most definitely qualified as one of those spectacular moments, it was a case of ‘Wow, we can’t believe that we’re finally here’!
The Great Wall at Mutianyu
By the time we arrived at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, almost 90 minutes from Beijing, I was incredibly excited! We were actually at the Great Wall of China!
Faced with the prospect of climbing over 1,000 steps to get onto the wall, we opted to take the gondola style cable car ride to Tower 14. There’s also an open, two-seater chair lift which takes the effort out of the journey up to Tower 6. The cable car is a scenic, if a slightly nerve-racking, ride over the tree tops but I was reassured by a picture of Bill Clinton taking a ride during his 2008 visit. If it’s good enough for a former President of the United States then it’s good enough for me!
As we approached the top it was incredible to see the Great Wall of China stretching across the horizon. Mutianyu is splendid on a clear day as the wall spans as far as the eye can see. It’s mind-blowing to think that it was originally constructed in the 6th century and rebuilt in the 16th century. I was feeling very young indeed!
One of the reasons we opted to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is that it’s well developed but, being located slightly further from Beijing, it tends to attract fewer crowds. At some points we almost had the wall to ourselves and it was amazing to stand back and appreciate the experience.
The Mutianyu section is 2.2 kilometres long. It’s a tiny section really, considering the Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan on the Bohai Sea in the east to Lop Lake in the Gobi Desert on the West, roughly following the southern edge of Inner Mongolia! The Mutianyu section was constructed to protect Beijing and the Imperial Tombs from the North.
There are 22 watchtowers on the Mutianyu section and they are an excellent reminder of the original purpose of the wall to defend from attack. It’s possible to walk from Tower 1 to Tower 23 but some sections are quite steep and rugged. Let’s just say the stair master gym time comes in quite useful on some parts of the walk!
Say what?! A toboggan Ride and a Graffiti Wall!
One of the coolest things about the Mutianyu section is the option to take a toboggan for a swift ride down the wall. It’s a fun way to head back down to the base of the wall and it’s not just for the adrenalin junkies. Although the track can be high at times the speed of the individual cars is self-controlled and it’s possible to enjoy the scenery. The novelty factor is huge! It’s not every day you can say you’ve zoomed down the great wall in a toboggan!
Another new and amazing feature of the Mutianyu section is the opportunity to leave a permanent mark on the Great Wall with the recent addition of a graffiti wall at Mutianyu. In an effort to protect the Great Wall, the Number 14 Fighting Tower has been allocated as a designated graffiti zone. Profound words of wisdom at the ready!
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Being a list kind of girl, I have a fascination with World Heritage Sites so you can only imagine my excitement when I got to pose beside a UNESCO rock with such an amazing backdrop!
The UNESCO World Heritage List includes 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which their Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. UNESCO classifies the Great Wall of China as an ‘absolute masterpiece’ and it’s a truly justified description. The Great Wall is truly awe-inspiring.
It’s a case of running the gauntlet of stallholders on the way down from the wall. I do like to pick up a few souvenirs but the 15 dollar asking price for a fridge magnet was a bit out of my league! Our initial attempts at bargaining were met with a ‘no, rich tourist, 15 dollar’ response but the vendors closer to the bottom were more receptive and we managed to pick up our souvenirs for a few dollars. I’d call that a result!
GUIDE TO MUTIANYU
By Taxi/Private Car:
- We used a private car with a driver which cost in the region of 700 RMB and included pick up and drop off to our Beijing hotel.
- Bus 867 departs from Dongzhimen Station at 7am and 8.30am and goes straight to the Great Wall. The return trips leave at 2pm and 4pm. It is a tourism bus and operates during the high season, usually from March 15 to November 15.
- Bus 916 operates from Dongzhimen Station to Huairou Bus Shelter where local operators run mini-buses to the Great Wall.
- Another option is to join an organised tour group. It is common for these to include unscheduled stops at tea rooms, medicine centres or factories.
On the wall:
- Walk: it takes around an hour to get up to the wall.
- Gondola style Cable Car: RMB 60 one way, 80 return
- Ski style Chair lift: RMB 60 one way, 80 return
- Toboggan ride: RMB 60 or use the return part of the chair lift (the cable car is a separate company)
On the Wall:
- It takes about 4 hours hike along the route. Use the cable car to get to Tower 14 and walk to Tower 6, then take the cable car or the toboggan down.
- Some sections are quite steep: between towers 19 and 20 and towers 1 and 6 there a lot of steps.
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The Great Wall at Mutianyu
The Mutianyu section was originally built in the mid 6th Century during the Northern Qi Dynasty and construction of the present wall began as early as the 14th Century under the Ming Dynasty. The section was rebuilt in 1569 and remains well preserved today. The wall at Mutianyu reaches up to 8.5 metres high and 5 metres wide and stretches 2,250 metres.